30 November 2010

30 November; Swan Hill, VIC

Still making our way towards the desert trying to get away from the rain and mud. I'm posting a bunch of pics today (finally) that have been taken over the last week or so.
Big rocks on our hike in Mt. Alexander
the Gum Trees (Eucalyptus) shed their limbs on whim - be careful!
camp at Mt. Alexander
the fields were covered in purple flowers
Near Bendigo we came on this mud puddle about 30 meters (100 feet) from the highway. decided it was too deep and too soft so went back around the long way - about 10 kilometers (8 miles)
we could see the highway!
Glenda's idea of another scenic byway
At least this one didn't have any puddles!

29 November 2010

Continuing thoughts and updates

It is flooding everywhere! We have managed to stay safe but many of the places we want to go are closed due to VERY high rivers. So we are heading for the desert which is different than the outback! It is also raining there but we are hoping not flooded. I promise to post some pics next time but just haven't gotten around to sorting camera stuff.

Another thing the Aussies do here that is pretty neat. We were in Bendigo which is a small city of about 60K and happened to be parked in the middle of a grammar school complex. We saw these small groups (maybe 10 or 20) of kids walking to school with an adult in the lead and one in the back. The adults had bright orange vests on labeled "Walking School Bus". Ended up the adults walk around and collect kids heading for school (like a regular school bus) and they all walk to school together. Kids get exercise (so do the adults); doesn't pollute; and the kids get to school safely.

27 November 2010

We headed out of Shepparton after I posted the last update heading towards Cobram on the Murray River. Our intention was to stay along the river. Camps 5 listed lots of places right along the river and they all sound wonderful. WELLLLLL we DID arrive in Cobram BUT when we stopped at the visitor center they warned us to not stay along the river because it is dangerous. The river is VERY! high and there are trees and branches coming down all over the place and the roads are mushy and slippery. BUT of course we had to check it out for ourselves so we took her advise for Caravan parks in the area and headed out. She had told us a place we could at least go see the river and that was our first stop. As she said it is very high (the boat ramp was under water) and everything was WET. We then also went on down the River Road looking for the areas Camp 5 lists and when we got to the regional park turnoff we found a "Park Closed" sign. It said closed until further notice due to unsafe conditions including down trees and branches and unsuitable soil conditions for driving. Well, SHIT! Needless to say we are in a caravan park for the night and will then decide what to do from here.

On a happy note! As the rain continues we keep checking Bunyip for leaks and have not found any of note. Trox did a good job patching after that last rainy period. I am enjoying the rain because it is cool. In fact my guess is tonight will be a spoons night. BUT! Where do we go now? Trox is thinking maybe we should head for the desert area west of here. If they have had any rain there should be wildflowers galore. We'll check tomorrow at the library or somewhere else we can get internet and see what their weather is like. Our circle looks like it has been taking LSD.

The caravan parks we have stayed at all have wonderful kitchens and we were able to make great use of one to resupply our freezer. I precooked taco meat and made up meatloafs and burgers. Then packaged everything for just one meal and froze them. Tonight we are having meatloaf since we can use the oven as we have power and it is cool. I was also able to take advantage of all the counter space and make up new pancake mixes! AND it gives us access to nice freezers so this morning I got to have an iced latte. I have been drinking hot lattes and am starting to get used to hot coffee but iced is much yummier!

The weather is forcing us inside which is okay with me but I think Trox is going to go bonkers.

27 November 2010

A few thoughts

Just a few thoughts to check in with. We are currently in Shepparton near the New South Wales state line. It has cooled down a little and we have seen a shower or two almost every day for the past few days. The past few days have been "maintenance" days ... i.e. grocery shopping; laundry; tire checks; generator fixed; and so on. We are probably going to have Bunyip's fluids changed here on Monday so that will be out of the way. We stayed in a Caravan Park last night and met a very nice couple - John & Lois Chester who were in town for their granddaughter's 5th birtday party. They were very friendly and offered us a place to park on their farm if we want. We may take them up on it.

We've been trying to decide about Christmas - when it will be HOT - as far as where we want to stay. This is a nice area and close to the Murray River but we aren't sure yet. We have been assured we will be able to find places around here - unlike the coast area.

Today (Saturday) is a state level election here in Victoria and so we have seen lots of signs and heard lots of campaign slogans. Ends up that voting here is compulsory and anyone 18 years of age or older MUST vote. If you are eligible to vote and don't you are fined. Therefore their turnout for every election is close to 100%. Makes our 62% turnout on the last presidential election pretty embarrasing.

We have also noticed that the Aussie's are very enviromentally conscious. More so than what we have seen in the states. Their autos are more efficient; they recycle more; they use effluent and reclaimed water a LOT; they use reusable bags at stores almost always; we haven't seen any sign of styrofoam used in "take away" (american - to go) meals and/or drinks; they use recycled plastic a LOT; they have "small" and "large" flush buttons on their toilets to save water; and their have been other things we've seen also.

On the flip side - their phone service SUCKS! There is just no other word for it. The different cell companies don't talk to each other (or at least don't seem to). We have been within spitting distance of a Telstra tower and couldn't use our Vodaphone. AND it is really expensive! We are trying to find out how I can use my ham license here and will probaby pick up a 2 meter hand held for emergencies.

Thanksgiving has come and gone and we didn't miss it - we had pizza for dinner but thought of our family and friends who were probably busy getting ready to cook THE bird!

23 November 2010

Bendigo, VIC

21 November 2010; Mt. Alexander, VIC

Well, we never made it back to the Vaughn area. Instead we headed north and east towards Mt. Alexander . We spent last night in an old Oak Plantation area. It was planted in 1900 so the oaks are VERY big and very majestic. Once again we were all alone although a number of vehicles did drive by us.
Camped among the oaks
Bunyip got to make his first river crossing to get to the site! Keep in mind if you watch the video that I was able to wade across this "river" and it never got deeper than midcalf.
video
Trox did a nice ride before dinner and as usual he came back with a "bouquet" for our table. He has been bringing flowers at every campsite although this bouquet was trees and grasses because there were very few flowers.
dinner table with bouquet
As I sit writing this I am at the picnic table at our site for tonight. Trox is preparing to leave for a ride and I'm about to move to a more comfortable spot to read. The weather today is very nice with big fluffy clouds but no threat of rain. We have been watching the birds and listening to the multitude of calls including the Laughing Kookaburra.

I have been keeping track of the roads we have traveled via the GPS and will start posting a copy of our tracks on a regular basis. This track is from the 15th when we left Firth Park to this morning when we entered the Mt. Alexander Regional Park. Typical of us our daily average is extremely low - we are beginning to think there is no way we will see the whole country is a year.
Where we've been since 15 November

22 November 2010; Mt. Alexander, VIC

Last night we stayed in a picnic ground that said we could stay overnight. It has turned pretty hot but here it was cool at night.
Campsite in a picnic ground
Trox did a ride last night after we arrived here and got "sorted". Today we headed for Bendigo which is mostly north. We tried to get to a water reservoir which was on all of our maps but couldn't figure out how to get to it. When we visited the visitor center they informed us it supplies part of Bendigo's drinking water and is closed to the public. OH!

We spent the night in the Greater Bendigo National Park. I still haven't figured out what constitutes a national park here. It seems to me that the Regional Parks are way nicer. Tonight we are staying in a spot that we found after dark (NOT a good idea). Pulled in and only one other person was there and he was parked under the picnic shelter (we're not sure why) and had his tent set up alongside. He came over to say hi and to see if he could borrow a torch (flashlight) so he could find his own.

23 November 2010; Bendigo, VIC

Today we are at the Bendigo library so Trox can check on his bike order and I can post this. Not sure where we're going to stay tonight - what else is new?

20 November 2010

Back in the JEMEZ????

Last night we think we made a wrong turn and ended up back in the Jemez. Drove a few miles out of Castlemaine up to a "Pine Plantation" which is state land (we think). Parked along side a road with easy single track access. Wonderful place to spend the night. Trox got in two really good rides - one last night and one this morning. We're back in Castlemaine now and then are heading back towards Vaughn Springs area.
Camped in the Jemez?
Easy singletrack access!

19 November 2010

Castlemaine, Vic

We stayed in Castlemaine last night at Australia's equivalent of a KOA but much nicer sites and much quieter. Today we are getting more caught up with stuff like laundry, internet/email and supplies. We also scouted a site to park tonight up in an area referred to as a "Pine Plantation". It is full of pine trees (no Eucalyptus) but we don't know the history of the area. We will ask here at the library.

While at our last site at Warburtons Bridge we soaked up some sunshine early in the morning. It was sunny but chilly.
Early morning dose of sun!
Trox went on a ride while I took a nice strolled and talked to some people who came in next to us midday. Trox found this pretty neat mushroom. Looks like it should have a leprechaun under it.
On the way from the Bridge back to the Springs to have breakfast we crossed a railroad and I was able to get a picture of this great road sign.
While having breakfast these little guys came to visit. They are very hard to photograph and I lucked into this one. They are all over the place but are NEVER still for more than a second or two.
Superb Fairy Wren
This morning after getting laundry done and scouting for a place for tonight we went to lunch and sat up on a roof terrace. On the roof next door was this little guy guarding the neighborhood.
Roof top guardian

18 November 2010

FINALLY found internet!

Friday 12 Nov 2010; Firth Park Campground, VIC (site #429)

We left Greg & Chrissy's much later than we had planned. Actually we were hoping to leave on Wednesday ... then maybe Thursday ... finally left Friday about 3 (maybe 4). When we left Melbourne it was hot (~30sC / ~90sF) and muggy. We decided to head north toward Ballarat to what looked like an interesting state park - Lerderberg. We had passed the area on our way to Ballarat about a month ago checking out a possible RV so we knew it was close and pretty. There were also a couple of free camping areas shown in our book.

The book we are using is "The Travellers Bible Camps 5 Australia Wide". It bills itself as "The ultimate guide for the budget and freedom conscious traveller". It includes lots of maps and thousands of listings for free or cheap sites. And typical of a guide it tells you what's there ... like shade, toilets, water, tables, etc.

We decided to head for campsite #429 Firth Park Campground. The directions read:

Turn @ off C704 11 km W of Gisborne or 20 km N of Darley onto Carrolls Lane and Firth Rd. 12 km dirt road.

I wasn't exactly sure what it meant to turn on to "Carrolls Lane AND Firth Rd" but discovered that Carrolls Lane simply turned into Firth Rd a little after the dirt started. The dirt road concerned us a little because it had been raining and lots more was predicted but it ended up the road was metal - which Trox says is what New Zealand calls good gravelled road. We had to skirt a down tree at one point but were able to get by. We found the campground well before dark and were able to find a relatively level spot with a table along side. We are parked right next to the information kiosk which has a very nice overhang so we were able to "garage" the bike for the night to keep it as dry as possible. We got everything organized and Trox cooked chicken on our new stove with a griddle and that along with rice, peas, and leftover lentils made a great dinner. Did the dishes and headed for bed.

It started raining in the night - just as predicted.

Saturday 13 Nov 2010; Firth Park Campground, VIC

Bunyip LEAKS! Anyone who tells you it doesn't rain in Southeast Australia or Victoria in November LIES! And it is very definitely CHILLY (about 15C / 60F) It started raining last night a little after dark and it hasn't stopped since - it is now about midmorning. There are little rivers running all over the camping area and lots of small ponds that weren't there when we arrived last night. The leaks in Bunyip are not bad but enough to be a nuisance. Only two small spots that we have found so far and of course for some reason Trox didn't bring any caulk. We are coping with the leaks and will head for civilization in a few days (after the rain stops and we get to enjoy the area) and try to fix the problems.

This area is really gorgeous. Tall thick forest of Eucalyptus and yesterday we were able to hear birds and frogs. One of the frogs we heard we had seen at Serendip Sanctuary the other day - he has a very distinctive thumping call. Also heard Cockatoos and Kookaburras last night.

It is supposed to stop raining later today with just scattered showers predicted for tomorrow. There are a number of walking trails around so once it dries out a little we will do some bushwalking and then Trox will probably do a ride or two.

Sunday 14 Nov 2010; Firth Park Campground, VIC

Well we survived the deluge without finding out if Bunyip floats. It never really stopped raining for about 24 hours. I'm guessing we got 3 inches but no matter the exact amount it was a LOT! We got up this morning to mostly cloudy but no rain. Trox strung a clothes line from the "garage" to a tree and we hung stuff out to dry without a whole lot of hope given the humidity must be near 100%. Also put stuff up on the table and under the awning to get it out of the mud and to give it a fighting chance at drying.
The garage and clothes line
drying out of the mud
We then had breakfast; tried to fix a few of the leaks (there really aren't THAT many but it sure seemed like it at the time); then went for a walk. Trail marker said we were heading for an old mill and this area has obviously been logged in the distant pass. We had to go around a number of puddles
one of the passable puddles
and the last one was just a little too big for me to cross
nope - i'm not going across that one
Trox kept going
I returned by myself to Bunyip and he kept going to the mill. Of course it was just a little past the puddle to the mill. Supposedly the only thing left to see was a giant pile of saw dust.

Now, as I write this he has gone off on a short bike ride and I'm sitting nice and snug. He'll be cold when he returns as it has started to rain again.

A few hours later

Sure enough when he arrived he was soaked. Ends up he had found a very (as in VERY) deep mud puddle and ended up taking an unexpected swim but over all he had a nice ride. Tomorrow we will have to find a laundromat as much we have is very wet.

Monday 15 Nov 2010; Daylesford, VIC

This morning started with sunshine and the promise of a bright but cool day. Before leaving Firth Park we were actually able to enjoy some sunshine and outdoor time without worrying about getting soaked.
Campsite
view across the park
We left Firth Park heading somewhere and ended up in Daylesford which is a quaint little tourist town. Here we found a bakery for lunch, laundromat, hardware store, petrol station where we can get fuel for the generator as well as water, library with free Wifi, and groceries. After we leave here we'll be looking for another camp spot. The drive here covered some really pretty countryside via metal roads, a narrow paved lane, and a "highway". Mostly farming and sheep country. We are higher than Melbourne so it is still very early spring. The rhododendrons are gorgeous as well as the azaleas. We saw a field full of Cockatoos which we really enjoyed but the farmer was probably swearing.

Tuesday 16 Nov 2010; Vaughn Springs Reserve, VIC (site #421)
Castlemain Diggings National Heritage Park

Well so much for making it to the library to get this posted yesterday. By the time the laundry was done and we had gone to the store and petrol station and Trox had caulked all around where we think Bunyip was leaking the library was closed so we pushed on down the road to Vaughn Springs Reserve in the Castelmaine Digging National Heritage Park. This is another free camping area in the book we are using. It is in a very pretty little park with lots of trails. We were the only ones here last night so needless to say it was quiet but tonight there are supposed to be about 15 high schoolers staying here so Trox is off on his bike looking for a possible place for us to move onto.

There are a number of natural mineral springs here which are carbonated but taste yucky. I was disappointed that they weren't hot. There is also a small circle of railroad track which is a miniature railroad. The camping area is on the top level and the park (and the bathrooms) is down a fairly steep hill. They have very nicely provided a stairway to go up the hill and a slide to down. Lots of fun!
It looks kinda scary
ended up gong pretty fast
here he comes with water jug in hand
long way back up
Bunyip

Wednesday 17 Nov 2010; Warburton Bridge Reserve, VIC (site #422)
Castlemain Diggings National Heritage Park

Sure enough Trox came back with a new site to move to so we packed up and left just as the hoard was arriving and down the road we went! Typical of the units our daily average is pretty low. Yesterday we managed a paltry 5 km or less and the day before about 80. Today nothing so even if you ignore today our average is about 40 per day.

This new site is WONDERFUL - my favorite so far! We went for a walk last night before starting dinner and were not bothered by either flies or mosquitos and got to see lots of birds and wildflowers. I have a pretty bouquet on my table. We still haven't found a wildflower or weed book so we really have no idea what they are but they are pretty. We are right on the Loddon river (about 5 meters) with really easy access so Trox has managed to get wet a number of times. There is NO ONE else here so it is very nice for listening for birds and just enjoying the quiet. We have been looking for a place to have Greg meet us and this might be it. Easy fishing; great place to set up a tent; quiet; nice bike trails and so on. Disadvantage of this spot is no potable water and no toilets but we have plenty of water with us and Bunyip provides the toilet.

The weather has finally dried out and we are not feeling like drowned rats. Trox is off on a ride and I have done a little exploring right around our camp. It is wonderful walking weather! Tomorrow our plan is to go into Castlemaine and get a new bike ordered for Trox and touch base with lots of people including YOU via the blog and email! We also need to check on our cushions for the back bench of Bunyip that weren't ready when we left Melbourne.

Thursday 18 Nov 2010; Castlemaine, VIC; library

We got up this morning and went back to the springs where we stopped to have breakfast and then drove into Castlemaine where went to the visitor center and now we are at the library. Still need to find water to refill Bunyip and hit a grocery and I am hungry (what else is new). Not sure where we are going to spend the night but last time we talked about it we thought we might go back to the same area as the past few nights. There is lots to see/do in this area and lots more bike trails.

I will post more the next time we find internet access! In the meantime Ciao Ciao for now!

12 November 2010

We're leaving Melbourne TODAY!

We are leaving Greg & Chrissy's today and heading .... uhh ... I think north ... but maybe east ... south? Wherever Bunyip takes us I guess. We have some ideas but no firm plans yet. We will be back this way soon but not sure when. Greg's Dad and his wife are coming for Christmas/New Year's so we will be here then for sure. In the meantime as Tom would say "Now the adventure really begins".

09 November 2010

Bunyip is almost ready to go! We went grocery shopping today and will make another grocery run tomorrow. That's it! Time to leave Melbourne! Still not sure where our first trip will be but probably east and/or north. We have tested the generator ... the outdoor stove ... the microwave ... the refrigerator .... the convection oven ... all the lights. We have carpeted the cab ... put in cushions in the storage box ... loaded all the cabinets with storage boxes for easy organizing ... ordered a new cushion for the "conversation pit" ... made a new table ... fixed the outside light that was busted ... registered it ... bought insurance ... that's enough! LET'S GO!
At Serendip Sanctuary
Chrissy will hate this pic but I like it
Jacques, Greg & Chrissy
Sunday we did manage to have some fun with Greg & Chrissy and Jacques. We went to the Serendip Sanctuary and walked around a number of the paths. We got to see birds and roos and more birds.
This guy is a "Frog Mouth" - he's like an owl
He is one of the weirdst birds I've ever seen!
Another one - they never moved and they never blinked